Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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Arizona Game and Fish collars first wild jaguar in United States

Jaguar conservation has just experienced an exciting development
with the capture and collaring of the first wild jaguar in Arizona
by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The male cat was incidentally captured yesterday in an area
southwest of Tucson during a research study aimed at monitoring
habitat connectivity for mountain lions and black bears. While
individual jaguars have been photographed sporadically in the
borderland area of the state over the past years, the area where
this animal was captured was outside of the area where the last
known jaguar photograph was taken in January. 

The jaguar was fitted with a satellite tracking collar and then
released. The collar will provide biologists with location points
every three hours. Early tracking indicates that the cat is doing
well and has already travelled more than three miles from the
capture site.

The data produced by the collar will shed light on a
little-studied population segment of this species that uses
southern Arizona and New Mexico as the northern extent of its
range.

“While we didn’t set out to collar a jaguar as part of the
mountain lion and bear research project, we took advantage of an
important opportunity,” says Terry Johnson, endangered species
coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “More than 10
years ago, Game and Fish attempted to collar a jaguar with no
success. Since then, we’ve established handling protocols in case
we inadvertently captured a jaguar in the course of one of our
other wildlife management activities.”

The jaguar plan, which was created in consultation with other
leading jaguar experts, includes a protocol for capture, sedation
and handling in the event a cat was captured.

Biologists are currently working on an identification analysis
to determine if the collared jaguar is Macho B, a male cat that has
been photographed by trail cameras periodically over the past 13
years.

The collared jaguar weighed in at 118 pounds with a thick and
solid build. Field biologists’ assessment shows the cat appeared to
be healthy and hardy.

The species has been protected outside of the United States
under the Endangered Species Act since 1973. That protection was
extended to jaguars within the U.S. in 1997, the year after their
presence in the Arizona and New Mexico borderlands was
confirmed. 

“We issued a permit under the Endangered Species Act to radio
collar a jaguar if the opportunity presented itself,” said Steve
Spangle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arizona field
supervisor. “Gathering habitat use information and learning whether
and how the cat is moving in and out of the United States may be
essential to jaguar conservation at the northern edge of their
range.”

In 1997, a team was established in Arizona and New Mexico to
protect and conserve the species. The Jaguar Conservation Team
(JCT) began working with Mexico two years later, recognizing that
the presence of jaguars in the United States depends on the
conservation of the species in Mexico.   

Trail cameras and field monitoring are carried out by the
Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project, a group that works in
cooperation with the JCT.

Jaguars once ranged from southern South America through Central
America and Mexico and into the southern United States. By the late
1900s, jaguars were thought to be gone from the U.S. landscape, but
two independent sightings in 1996 confirmed that jaguars still used
Arizona and New Mexico as part of the northern most extent of its
range.

Jaguars are the only cat in North America that roars. They prey
on a variety of mammals, fish, birds and reptiles. Individuals in
the northern population weigh between 80-120 pounds. Females breed
year-round and have litters of one to four cubs that stay with
their mother for nearly two years. 

This conservation effort is funded in part by the Heritage Fund
and Indian gaming revenue. Started in 1990, the Heritage Fund was
established by Arizona voters to further conservation efforts in
the state including protecting endangered species, educating our
children about wildlife, helping urban residents to better coexist
with wildlife and creating new opportunities for outdoor
recreation. Funding comes from Arizona Lottery ticket sales. 

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